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Islamic State gunman kills 25 in attack on Sikh house of worship in Kabul

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A lone Islamic State gunman rampaged through a Sikh house of worship in the heart of the Afghan capital Wednesday, killing 25 worshippers and wounding eight, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said.

The gunman held many worshippers hostage for several hours while Afghan special forces, helped by international troops, tried to clear the building. At least one of the dead was a child.

Within hours, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

What the death of al-Baghdadi means for ISIS
What the death of al-Baghdadi means for ISIS

The Afghan special forces rescued at least 80 worshippers who had been trapped inside the Sikh house of worship, known as a Gurdwara, as the gunman lobbed grenades and fired his automatic rifle into the crowd, the ministry said.

Earlier, Afghan lawmaker Narindra Singh Khalsa said he rushed over to help after receiving a call from a person inside the Gurdwara telling him of the attack. There were about 150 people inside at the time, he said.

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The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant postings and groups, said IS claimed responsibility for the attack on the group’s Aamaq media arm. The communique identified the gunman as Indian national Abu Khalid al-Hindi, who carried out the attack to avenge the plight of Muslims living under severe restrictions in Indian-ruled Kashmir, Hindu India’s only Muslim dominated state.

READ MORE: Iraqi soldiers, coalition members injured in Camp Taji rocket attack: officials

At a Kabul hospital, Mohan Singh, who was in the Gurdwara when the attack began, said he first heard the sound of gunshots and ducked for cover under a table. Later he heard explosions, adding that he believes they were hand grenades. He was wounded when parts of the ceiling fell on him.

In photographs shared by the Interior Ministry, about a dozen children were seen being rushed out of the Gurdwara by Afghan special forces, many of them barefoot and crying.

As news of the attack first broke, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed tweeted that the Taliban were not involved. Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s IS affiliate struck a gathering of minority Shiite Muslims in Kabul, killing 32 people.

Islamic State leader Baghdadi reportedly killed by U.S. forces
Islamic State leader Baghdadi reportedly killed by U.S. forces

Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib condemned the attack in a tweet while neighboring Pakistan and India both issued statements of condemnation. Pakistan described the attack as “heinous.”

“Such despicable acts have no political, religious or moral justification and must be rejected outright,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement said.

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India said the attack was particularly egregious coming as Afghanistan sought to deal with the growing coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Shooting at Kabul ceremony leaves at least 32 people dead, dozens more injured

“Such cowardly attacks on the places of religious worship of the minority community,” India said, reflect the “diabolical mindset of the perpetrators and their backers.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack, reiterating that “attacks against civilians are unacceptable and those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan called for a “reduction of violence leading to a cease-fire” by all combatants in Afghanistan.

U.S. drone strike kills 30 pine nut farm workers in Afghanistan
U.S. drone strike kills 30 pine nut farm workers in Afghanistan

Sikhs have suffered widespread discrimination in the conservative Muslim country and have also been targeted by Islamic extremists. Under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, they were asked to identify themselves by wearing yellow armbands, but the rule was not enforced. In recent years, large numbers of Sikhs and Hindus have sought asylum in India, which has a Hindu majority and a large Sikh population.

In July 2018, a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus was attacked by an Islamic State suicide bomber as they were on their way to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the eastern city of Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. Nineteen people were killed in that attack.

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Elsewhere in Afghanistan, at least eight civilians were killed in southern Helmand province when their vehicle hit a roadside mine, said Omer Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor. The area is under Taliban control but no one took immediate responsibility.

READ MORE: Blast outside U.S. embassy in Tunisia marks country’s most serious attack in months

In a separate incident in northern Kapisa province, insurgents opened fire on a vehicle killing three civilians and a security officer, said Shahiq Shoresh Kohistani, spokesman for the provincial police chief.

Washington signed a deal with the Taliban on Feb. 29 and has begun to withdraw its troops in keeping with the agreement but it has run into trouble as Afghanistan’s political leadership battles relentlessly for power. Two presidents sit in Kabul. Even a surprise visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, who threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid if they didn’t “get their act together,” could break the impasse.

A glimmer of hope appeared late Wednesday with a tweet from Taliban political spokesman Sohail Shaheen. He said the release of Taliban prisoners — a must before intra-Afghan negotiations can begin — could start by March 31. The decision came after a four-hour video conference between the Taliban, the government, Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Qatari government representative. The Taliban maintain a political office in the Middle Eastern State of Qatar.

The U.S.-Taliban deal calls for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners as well as 1,000 government captives as a good will gesture to launch intra-Afghan negotiations, but until now Kabul has been resisting the release.

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U.S.-backed Syrian forces declare victory over Islamic State
U.S.-backed Syrian forces declare victory over Islamic State

Shaheen also said four Taliban members may travel to the prison at Bagram, north of the Afghan capital Kabul.

Meanwhile, with more than 137,000 Afghans returning from Iran so far this year — traveling throughout the country before being tested and without follow up — there have been concerns that the country’s already war-devastated health system could be overwhelmed.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Wednesday called for a “reduction of violence leading to a cease fire” by all combatants in Afghanistan to better prepare for “the looming health crisis posed by COVID-19,” and to give a chance to intra-Afghan negotiations between warring groups.

Associated Press writers Kathy Gannon in Islamabad and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, UAE contributed to this report

© 2020 The Canadian Press

Source: Global News

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‘None of the UK’s coronavirus antibody tests are good enough to use’

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The UK’s chief of coronavirus testing has revealed that none of the antibody kits bought by the Government are good enough to use.

Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said the tests were not accurate enough on people who had only had mild illnesses.

The tests, which reveal whether someone has already recovered from the disease, are considered to be crucial to ending Britain’s nationwide lockdown. 

Once in use they will give authorities a clear picture of how many people have caught the virus already and shaken it off. 

Currently, statistical guesswork is the only way of working out how many people might already be immune. Estimates suggest up to five million people could have been infected to date.

Professor Newton’s comments come after one expert in New York said people who catch the virus but don’t get seriously ill appear not to be making many antibodies, making it hard to test them. For this reason, he suggested, even good tests might only be 50-60 per cent accurate. 

A Government adviser in the UK added that other countries have had to send back failed tests and that it is possible that some unreliable tests could have false positive results triggered by other viruses which produce similar antibodies to COVID-19.

Professor Sir John Bell said: ‘We see many false negatives… and we also see false positives. This is not a good result or test suppliers or for us.’ 

Professor John Newton, chief of COVID-19 testing for Public Health England, said none of the tests examined so far were accurate enough to roll out across the UK

Professor John Newton, chief of COVID-19 testing for Public Health England, said none of the tests examined so far were accurate enough to roll out across the UK

Professor John Newton, chief of COVID-19 testing for Public Health England, said none of the tests examined so far were accurate enough to roll out across the UK

Wondfo claims its antibody test was the first one to be approved in China, and it has been approved for emergency use in the US and Australia

Wondfo claims its antibody test was the first one to be approved in China, and it has been approved for emergency use in the US and Australia

Alltest claims on its website that the antibody test is 98.6 per cent accurate

Alltest claims on its website that the antibody test is 98.6 per cent accurate

Officials have reportedly bought test kits from the Chinese companies Wondo and Alltest but found that they are not accurate enough for official use

Professor Newton told The Times that the antibody tests bought by the Government so far were ‘not good enough to be worth rolling out’.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week claimed that 3.5million of the tests had been bought but admitted officials couldn’t confirm that they were any good.  

The Department of Health later rowed back and said it hadn’t actually bought the tests yet, just put an agreement in place to do so if they were up to scratch. 

WHAT IS AN ANTIBODY TEST?

An antibody test is one which tests whether someone’s immune system is equipped to fight a specific disease or infection.

When someone gets infected with a virus their immune system must work out how to fight it off and produce substances called antibodies.

These are extremely specific and are usually only able to tackle one strain of one virus. They are produced in a way which makes them able to latch onto that specific virus and destroy it.

For example, if someone catches COVID-19, they will develop COVID-19 antibodies for their body to use to fight it off.

The body then stores versions of these antibodies in the immune system so that if it comes into contact with that same virus again it will be able to fight it off straight away and probably avoid someone feeling any symptoms at all.

To test for these antibodies, medics or scientists can take a fluid sample from someone – usually blood – and mix it with part of the virus to see if there is a reaction between the two.

If there is a reaction, it means someone has the antibodies and their body knows how to fight off the infection – they are immune. If there is no reaction it means they have not had it yet.

In a statement the Department said it had ‘secured small numbers with potential to get much larger orders,’ The Telegraph reported.

And officials said they were working with at least nine manufacturers to try and get the project off the ground.

It is not clear what the threshold is for UK approval – one Chinese manufacturer believed to have been turned down by the Government claims its test is up to 98.6 per cent accurate.

PHE’s Professor Newton, however, said Government scientists were now having to go back to manufacturers and work with them to make the tests better.

Although tests appear accurate when used on people who were seriously ill with the coronavirus, they struggle to detect antibodies in people whose illnesses were mild.

Professor Newton said: ‘The test developed in China was validated against patients who were severely ill with a very large viral load, generating a large amount of antibodies,’ The Times reports.

‘We want to use the test in the context of a wider range of levels of infection including people who are quite mildly infected,’ he added. ‘So for our purposes, we need a test that performs better than some of these other tests.’    

Two of the tests ordered by the British Government come from Chinese firms called Wondfo and Alltest, according to ITV.

HOW ACCURATE DO ANTIBODY TESTS ON THE MARKET CLAIM TO BE? 

Cellex qSARS-CoV-2 IgG/IgM

COUNTRIES APPROVED IN: US and Australia 

MANUFACTURER: Cellex Inc, North Carolina

ACCURACY:  Study in China found 88.66% true positive, 90.63% true negative

2019-n-CoV IgG/IgM Rapid Test Cassette

COUNTRIES APPROVED IN: Australia 

MANUFACTURER: Hangzhou Alltest Biotech Co Ltd (China)

ACCURACY: Company claims up to 98.6 per cent  

COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test Cassette

COUNTRIES APPROVED IN: Australia

MANUFACTURER: Zhejiang Orient Gene Biotech Co Ltd (China) 

ACCURACY: 87.9-97.2% true positive, 100% true negative 

OnSite COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test

COUNTRIES: US, Australia

MANUFACTURER: CTK Biotech Inc (USA)

ACCURACY: 96.9% true positive, 99.4% true negative  

SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Test (Lateral Flow Method)

COUNTRIES: US, Australia, China 

MANUFACTURER: Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Co Ltd (China) 

ACCURACY: Unknown 

SARS-CoV-2 IgM/IgG Antibody Rapid Test

COUNTRIES: Australia, China 

MANUFACTURER: Hightop Biotech Co Ltd (China)

ACCURACY: 82-93% true positive, 97% true negative  

VivaDiag™ COVID-19 IgM/IgG Rapid Test

COUNTRIES: Australia, Singapore

MANUFACTURER: VivaChek Biotech (China)

ACCURACY: 81.25-97.1% true positive  

Biolidics 2019-nCoV IgG/IgM Detection Kit

COUNTRIES: Singapore

MANUFACTURER: Biolidics Limited (Singapore)

ACCURACY: 91.54% true positive, 97.02% true negative 

Wondfo claims on its website that its antibody test was the first one to be approved for official use in China, and it has been given emergency approval in the US and Australia. Its accuracy, however, is unclear.

Alltest, meanwhile, claims its tests are 98.6 per cent accurate at detecting long-term antibodies, which appear around two weeks after infection, but only 92.9 per cent accurate for antibodies produced between weeks two and four. 

Professor Newton’s comments follow claims by an expert at Columbia University in  New York, who said low levels of antibodies make long-term testing difficult. 

Dr David Ho said that people who don’t get seriously ill appear to take much longer to develop antibodies and therefore might test negative in early stages of recovery.

He told The Guardian: ‘The problem is after a couple of weeks, the detection rate remains at about 50 per cent to 60 per cent, especially in asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases. 

‘But this may not be a fault of the tests, because even using more sensitive methods in the lab we can see the antibody levels are quite low.’ 

More detailed long-term follow-up of patients will be necessary to see whether antibody levels in the blood increase over time, he added.

A University of Oxford professor said in a blog that the UK is not the only country struggling to find reliable tests.

Professor Sir John Bell, a royally appointed medicine professor at the university, said: ‘The Spanish apparently returned test kits that were not working, and the Germans who are developing their own sensitive kits believe they are three months away from getting these available and validated.’ 

Explaining the difficulties, he added: ‘To validate these tests you need a gold standard test so you know the correct answer and you need [blood] from patients who have recovered from the virus infection they had approximately 28 days before. 

‘You also need blood from people who donated before the epidemic so you know whether you falsely see positive tests when there is no Covid-19 in the sample.  

‘For example, there are a number of other coronaviruses circulating that might stimulate antibodies that cross react to Covid-19 proteins. 

‘It has taken some time to gather these tools for validation but the UK is now uniquely positioned to evaluate and find the optimal test for this disease. 

‘We clearly want to avoid telling people they are immune when they are not, and we want all people who are immune to know accurately so they can get back to work.’

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COVID-19:UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Hospitalized with virus

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LONDON -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to a hospital Sunday for tests, his office said, because he is still suffering symptoms, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Johnson’s office said the admission to an undisclosed London hospital came on the advice of his doctor and was not an emergency. The prime minister's Downing St. office said it was a “precautionary step” and Johnson remains in charge of the government. Johnson, 55, has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 — the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus. Johnson has continued to preside at daily meetings on Britain’s response to the outbreak and has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation. In a message Friday, a flushed and red-eyed Johnson said he said he was feeling better but still had a fever. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death. U.S. President Donald Trump offered encouragement to Johnson as he opened a White House briefing on the pandemic Sunday. ”All Americans are praying for him,” Trump said. Johnson has received medical advice remotely during his illness, but going to a hospital means doctors can see him in person. Dr. Rupert Beale, a group leader of the cell biology of infection lab at the Francis Crick Institute for biomedical studies, said doctors would likely “be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen saturations,” as well as performing blood tests, assessing Johnson’s organ function and possibly performing a CT scan on his chest to assess his lungs. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been designated to take over if Johnson becomes incapacitated, is set to lead the government's coronavirus meeting Monday. Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, 32, revealed Saturday that she spent a week in bed with coronavirus symptoms, though she wasn't tested. Symonds, who is pregnant, said she was now “on the mend.” She has not been staying with the prime minister in Downing St. since his diagnosis. The government said Sunday that almost 48,000 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the U.K., and 4,934 have died. Johnson replaced Theresa May as Conservative prime minister in July and won a resounding election victory in December on a promise to complete Britain's exit from the European Union. But Brexit, which became official Jan. 31, has been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe. Johnson's government was slower than those in some European countries to impose restrictions on daily life in response to the pandemic, leading his critics to accuse him of complacency. He imposed an effective nationwide lockdown March 23, but his government remains under huge pressure to boost the country's number of hospital beds and ventilators and to expand testing for the virus. London has been the center of the outbreak in the U.K., and politicians and civil servants have been hit hard. Several other members of Johnson’s government have also tested positive for the virus, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and junior Health Minister Nadine Dorries. Both have recovered. News of Johnson’s admission to hospital came an hour after Queen Elizabeth II made a rare televised address to the nation, in which she urged Britons to remain “united and resolute” in the fight against the virus. “We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us,” the 93-year-old monarch said, drawing parallels to the struggle of World War II. “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again," she said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to a hospital for tests, 10 days after being diagnosed with the new coronavirus

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to a hospital Sunday for tests, his office said, because he is still suffering symptoms, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Johnson’s office said the admission to an undisclosed London hospital came on the advice of his doctor and was not an emergency. The prime minister’s Downing St. office said it was a “precautionary step” and Johnson remains in charge of the government.

Boris Johnson

Johnson, 55, has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 — the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus.

Johnson has continued to preside at daily meetings on Britain’s response to the outbreak and has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation.

In a message Friday, a flushed and red-eyed Johnson said he said he was feeling better but still had a fever.

The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death.

U.S. President Donald Trump offered encouragement to Johnson as he opened a White House briefing on the pandemic Sunday. ”All Americans are praying for him,” Trump said.

Johnson has received medical advice remotely during his illness, but going to a hospital means doctors can see him in person.

Dr. Rupert Beale, a group leader of the cell biology of infection lab at the Francis Crick Institute for biomedical studies, said doctors would likely “be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen saturations,” as well as performing blood tests, assessing Johnson’s organ function and possibly performing a CT scan on his chest to assess his lungs.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been designated to take over if Johnson becomes incapacitated, is set to lead the government’s coronavirus meeting Monday.

Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, 32, revealed Saturday that she spent a week in bed with coronavirus symptoms, though she wasn’t tested. Symonds, who is pregnant, said she was now “on the mend.” She has not been staying with the prime minister in Downing St. since his diagnosis.

The government said Sunday that almost 48,000 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the U.K., and 4,934 have died.

Johnson replaced Theresa May as Conservative prime minister in July and won a resounding election victory in December on a promise to complete Britain’s exit from the European Union. But Brexit, which became official Jan. 31, has been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe.

Johnson’s government was slower than those in some European countries to impose restrictions on daily life in response to the pandemic, leading his critics to accuse him of complacency. He imposed an effective nationwide lockdown March 23, but his government remains under huge pressure to boost the country’s number of hospital beds and ventilators and to expand testing for the virus.

London has been the center of the outbreak in the U.K., and politicians and civil servants have been hit hard. Several other members of Johnson’s government have also tested positive for the virus, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and junior Health Minister Nadine Dorries. Both have recovered.

News of Johnson’s admission to hospital came an hour after Queen Elizabeth II made a rare televised address to the nation, in which she urged Britons to remain “united and resolute” in the fight against the virus.

“We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us,” the 93-year-old monarch said, drawing parallels to the struggle of World War II.

“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again,” she said.

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Why is Boris Johnson in hospital and what’s the latest on his condition as he is treated for coronavirus?

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Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson spent the night in hospital 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus (Picture: AP)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent the night in hospital after being admitted on Sunday 10 days after he tested positive for coronavirus.

A Downing Street spokesperson said that Mr Johnson, who is in an NHS hospital in London, was not admitted on an emergency basis and continues to be in charge of the government.

The Prime Minister first confirmed he had tested positive for Covid-19 on 27 March – saying he had ‘mild symptoms’ of the virus.

So why has he now been admitted to hospital – and what’s the latest on his condition?

Why has Boris Johnson been admitted to hospital?

Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital for tests, after suffering with what Downing Street has referred to as ‘persistent coronavirus symptoms’.

For our Coronavirus live blog click here.

A spokesperson said that it was a ‘precautionary’ measure, explaining: ‘On the advice of his doctor, the Prime Minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests.

Boris Johnson won't be out of isolation today
The PM had said on social media over the weekend that he still had one of the symptoms (Picture: Twitter)

‘This is a precautionary step, as the Prime Minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus 10 days after testing positive for the virus.

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‘The Prime Minister thanks NHS staff for all their incredible hard work and urges the public to continue to follow the government’s advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.’

What’s the latest on Boris Johnson’s condition?

The Prime Minister initially said that his symptoms were ‘mild’ when he confirmed that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Although he was initially set to self-isolate for seven days, he was still showing symptoms the day before his quarantine period was set to end.

He said in a video on social media: ‘In my own case, although I’m feeling better and I’ve done my seven days of isolation, alas I still have one of the symptoms, a minor symptom, I still have a temperature.

‘And so in accordance with Government advice I must continue my self-isolation until that symptom itself goes.’

Public Health England has advised anyone with a high temperature lasting longer than seven days should call 111 and not immediately return to their normal routine.

However it says a cough can persist for several weeks despite the infection having cleared – and does not mean people have to self-isolate past seven days.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock also tested positive for coronavirus, but left quarantine at the end of last week.

MORE: Huw Edwards urges public to ‘take care’ after being hospitalised with pneumonia

MORE: Dr Alex George reveals A&E colleagues have died from coronavirus as he brands people breaking social distancing rules ‘heartbreaking’

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Source: Metro News

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